Managing budget major balancing act

By Brian Moore

Editor’s note: The Clovis News Journal asked area lawmakers to offer brief commentary on a subject of their choice as they head back to Santa Fe this week for a 60-day legislative session.

A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there … pretty soon you’re talking real money. Even though our budget is one of the smallest in the country, it’s still real money and it comes from your pocket. How we spend your hard-earned money is usually the biggest challenge we face during our sessions. There is no shortage of opinions about how to use those dollars.

We have to pass a balanced budget. That means we can’t spend more than we bring in. So we make estimates about how much that is, trying to take into account all the ups and downs we might have between now and July, 2006.

It’s even worse when a large part of the taxes we collect come from the oil business. We’re having to guess on the price of oil over a year from now.

Since most of us believe it’s better to have more money than you thought you did, our guesses tend to be conservative.

The hardest part is deciding how to spend the money we believe we do have. In next year’s budget, if we subtract what we’re spending on programs now, we’ll have about $300 million of “new money.” That seems like a lot, until you realize that we have to spend over $100 million to pay for education and teachers’ raises we’ve already promised.

We also have to spend another $100 million on Medicaid, mostly to replace money we’re losing from the federal government. All of a sudden, we’re down to less than $100 million to do everything else. The total budget requests will be in the billions, so you can imagine how difficult it is trying to keep 112 legislators (and 1.6 million New Mexicans) happy with our budget.

If you have any ideas, please let us know.

Rep. Brian Moore is a Republican from Clayton. Contact him at 374-9681 or 374-2312 or by e-mail: brian@ranchmkt.com